Karim Wazni, Director of Distributed Energy – Off Grid
The energy market is changing. We are at a global tipping point where clean energy generation is becoming plentiful and is increasingly cheaper than from traditional, more polluting sources such as coal and diesel. Solar and wind prices are on a par or cheaper than conventional plants, according to the latest auction prices.
This is exactly the direction we should be travelling in. Continuing this transition is essential if we are to meet carbon reduction targets.
The recent growth in renewables comes at a time of resurgence in the mining industry. We’ve seen strong recovery and growth, partly driven by increased demand for the component parts of batteries for electric vehicles, including cobalt, copper, lithium and graphite.
But, like other industries around the world, the pressure is on to reduce emissions. For a traditionally carbon-intensive industry, this is no easy task.
It’s made harder still when you consider that ensuring flexibility of supply also vital for mines, due to the cyclical nature of the industry. And, like any business, saving money is always an important consideration.
The challenges are considerable. But they also present a significant opportunity for energy providers if we apply the right kind of thinking and use the right kind of technology.
That’s why the solar-diesel hybrid technology which we are developing at Aggreko is so exciting. It can respond to the needs of both the changing energy market and the mining industry.
First of all, it reduces cost. Solar energy is more affordable than ever and can save clients between 5-15%. What’s more, there is no charge upfront for our customers, and no capacity charge. They simply lease the equipment and pay for the energy which is generated, rather than for the fuel itself.
Secondly, it’s flexible. The generators can fit in with the requirements of the mine depending on the stage in its lifecycle. They’re also mobile, and can be transported to mines in some of the world’s most remote locations.
Thirdly, it’s reliable. Like many renewable sources, solar power is intermittent, but coupled with the conventional diesel power and storage capabilities which are integrated in the generators, these issues can be overcome.
You can see the benefits at the Bisha mine in Eritrea, where a 7.5MW solar photovoltaic plant has recently been installed. The company has been able to hedge fuel costs and cut around 10,000 tonnes of CO2 annually.
Of course, I’m not claiming that solar-hybrid is a silver bullet. In a world where energy systems are changing and companies are facing increasingly complex challenges, it is undoubtedly a step in the right direction.